Pa. airmen deploy, get unique goodbye - abc27 WHTM

Pa. airmen deploy, get unique goodbye

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A final wave of Pennsylvania Air National Guard engineers said good-bye to their families Saturday at an emotional ceremony before heading out to the Middle East and Asia.

A cloudy day at Fort Indiantown Gap matched the gloomy mood that settles over a deployment. A dad played catch with his sons. Families posed for pictures and hold each other close. The last few precious moments were spent together before they are separated for eight months.

"Kind of a sad time yet make it as upbeat as we possibly can," said Senior Master Sergeant Nancy Stoltzfus of Manheim. This is her third deployment.

"I've known for about a year. We have rotation so I've known for quite a while. Have plenty of time to prepare," she said.

But nothing could prepare her for the moment she left her three children.

"Leaving three kids now and their ages, they're involved in all kinds of activities -- it's a little bit harder," Stoltzfus said. "I gave them owls with a Bible verse on that says something about God watching over them."

Families returned the prayers and well wishes by writing special messages to the airmen on yellow bows. Those bows were hung around the 201st RED HORSE Squadron statue.

"I wrote, 'Good luck.' And then we had, 'Love you. God will keep you safe.' And then everybody signed it," said Camryn Stoltzfus, daughter of Nancy Stoltzfus.

"I wrote 'Will miss you,' said Ethan Stoltzfus, son of Nancy Stoltzfus.

"I just signed it, 'Love Sierra' with a heart," said Sierra Stoltzfus, daughter of Nancy Stoltzfus.

It is a tradition practiced only by the RED HORSE. The bows will remain until the airmen return in eight months.

"Nobody else -- nobody -- not in the Army or the air in the state of Pennsylvania does anything like this," Stoltzfus said. "I'm trying not to read it too closely because I don't want cry."

But as the airmen said goodbye, the tears and the rain began to fall.

"We're very proud of her and we wish her the best of luck and safety," Sierra Stoltzfus said.

The 80 airmen who departed on Saturday will conduct civil engineering missions in Afghanistan and Southwest Asia.

This was the third and final group leaving from Fort Indiantown Gap as part of this deployment.

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